Trekking Out Through a Flooded Karakorum

It was the end of the climb but not the end of the adventure. A bunch of tired climbers set off from Broad Peak and K2 Base Camps toward Skardu this past weekend.

Unlike Nepal, where private helicopter companies offer a quick and scenic flight back to civilization, Karakorum climbers must hoof it. That is, unless they are injured or have extremely good contacts and can cop an expensive flight aboard a Pakistan Army helicopter. Still, hiking back from the Baltoro is usually good news, because it means that someone is able to hike back.

Late but lethal monsoon

As we mentioned yesterday, bad weather has settled into the Karakorum. The monsoon hits Pakistan later than Nepal, which makes a summer climbing season possible. But after good weather allowed a record number of K2 summits, moisture has finally hit the Karakorum and elsewhere in Pakistan in a big way.

In the Islamabad-Rawalpindi areas, flash floods from the monsoon killed 88 people last week. The Northerner blog warned today that the swollen Shyok River near Ghwari (Ghanche) is dangerously high, and tourists are advised not to drive in the area. A video of the current state of the river leaves no room for doubt.

Anton Pugovkin on a better-don’t-fall section of the trek back to Skardu. Photo: Vitaly Lazo


Crossing swollen rivers

Along the Baltoro trek, the rains have caused rivers to rise, creating some dangerous crossings.

Oswaldo Rodrigo Pereira was shocked when the mule carrying his equipment drowned in one of these rivers. First, he just felt sorry for the animal. Then he realized that he had also lost all his gear.

“Not only my climbing equipment that I had collected for years but also some electronic devices and precious personal things, such as a notebook with dedications from members of all my expeditions,” he said.

When he finally did arrive in Skardu, his luggage consisted of “a T-shirt, a pair of clean socks, and underwear that I left in Skardu.” Luckily, the Polish climber and photographer had his cameras with him.

Vitaly Lazo and Anton Pugovkin were also in the group. Despite putting in double days, the rain and the flooded rivers finally caught up with them. Lazo posted a video showing a short but hairy crossing that is near the limit of what is possible.

Soaked climbers and staff dry in a local hut. Photo: Vitaly Lazo


Luckily, no human injuries occurred, and most of the climbers reached Skardu today. Hugo Ayaviri of Bolivia received the warmest welcome. He earned applause all over Pakistan, and not just because of his impressive no-O2 double ascents of Broad Peak and K2. He also helped Sajid Sadpara bring down, bury and honor the body of his father, Ali.